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New Jersey changes weigh-in rules

People have complained for years that fighters who cut weight the day before a fight, and then put in 15-20 pounds after weighing-in, have an unfair advantage against fighters whose actual weight is near the weight limit. Critics have generally proposed moving weigh-ins to the day of a fight in order to avoid excessive weight cutting. The problem has been, however, is that a fighter who cuts too much weight on the day of a fight would put his health at serious risk once he or she gets into the ring.

Now, however, the New Jersey State Athletic Commission has decided to go another route. For championship fights it is going to weigh in fighters 30 days before the fight and again 7 days before the fight. The fighter must be within 10% of his target weight30 days before the fight, and within 5% of the target weight 7 days before the fight.

The new rules are designed to protect fighters’ health, and for that reason I think they are a good idea. Of course, since the new rules only apply to championship fights in New Jersey they will not end the practice of excessive weight cutting, but at least this is a step in a positive direction.

Following is the official statement my the New Jersey State Athletic Commisison:

From: Commissioner Hazzard

Date: October 17, 2006

Subject: Weigh-Ins for Championship Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts, and Kickboxing Matches

This agency has been fortunate in that fighters involved in recent world championship contests held in Atlantic City have not had trouble making weight at the weigh-in held the day prior to competition. However, we are aware of the weigh-in problems that have occurred in jurisdictions outside of New Jersey. These weigh-in problems at championship fights held elsewhere have caused us to review our championship weigh-in policy. We have discussed this matter with staff, medical personnel and reviewed media articles on the subject.

In summary, we agree with the WBC and Mr. Jose Sulaiman that a 30 day and 7 day weigh-in should be held in addition to the customary weigh-in prior to championship bouts. Although this idea originated with the WBC and not with us, we are always open to the ideas of others and encourage other commissions to be open to such credible ideas as well. We do believe that New Jersey will be the first state to require that the WBC weigh-in procedure be followed. This agency will institute this new weigh-in policy for all championship bouts held in New Jersey after January 1, 2007.

The contestants will be able to be weigh-in at the nearest recognized athletic commission. The fighters will not be mandated to travel to New Jersey 30 days and 7 days prior to the bout. For example, if the fighter is training in California for a championship bout to be held in Atlantic City, that fighter could go to the California commission to weigh-in 30 days and 7 days prior to the bout. If the commission is unable or unwilling to weigh the fighter, arrangements can be made at another state facility or be certified by a licensed physician.

At the 30 day weigh-in, a fighter cannot weigh over 10% of his or her contract weight. At the seven day weigh-in, a fighter must be within 5% of his or her contract weight.

Unfortunately, it seems that certain championship caliber fighters are in the habit of dieting and using steam rooms, saunas and associated tactics in the week prior to the fight in order to make weight. Subsequent to the customary weigh-in, these same fighters gorge themselves with liquids and nutritional substances to attempt to regain proper physical stability to compete. This type of practice has a negative effect on a fighter’s short and long term health. Further, such a threat to a professional’s health and safety must be eliminated. This new weigh-in procedure would not be necessary if championship caliber fighter’s conducted themselves like absolute professionals and stayed in competition shape year round and at or near their fighting weight.

We do not agree that moving the weigh-in to the day of the event is the proper solution. In theory, we agree with the concept, but the practical reality dictates the opposite conclusion. A weigh -in on the day of the event will only increase the chances of seeing a dehydrated fighter competing during the event. While this approach may be successful in other sports like amateur or collegiate wrestling, these competitors are not subject to repeated blows to the head and are not trained by individuals who derive substantial revenue from a percentage of the fighter’s purse.

It is my hope that by enacting this mandate, professional combative sports contestants will place a greater emphasis on weight maintenance. I believe that this procedure will enhance the health and safety of the fighter (which, as regulators, should always be our primary focus) as well as the image of these sports.

As boxing attorney Pat English, Esq. has recently stated on this subject, there is a problem that is real and needs to be addressed. We agree with Mr. English’s comments that this solution is a partial answer and is not perfect, but something needs to be done.

This policy will also go into effect on January 1, 2007 for world class caliber professional mixed martial arts and kick boxing contests held here.

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